Shelby County, Indiana
Josephine Pavey Campbell Huffer
The third minister more properly in point of time belings in the next chapter but is mentioed here because her church developed in the earlier period. The Reverend Josephine Campbell (later Huffer) entered the ministry after the death of her first husband and in 1920 became the first woman to be licensed as a minister and ordained in the state of Indiana. She was assigned to the little Methodist Church in Walkerville and was a leader in spurring her congragation into building its beautiful Trinity Church. Working in what was largely an economically poor section at the time she did heroic work among the people of the area, especially during the grim depression years of the 1930s and was a great influence in changing the character of her neighborhood. She married a second time but continued active in the work of her church until her death in 1953.
Biography of a Town, "The Quiet Time, 1876-1910," Marion McFadden, Tippecanoe Press Inc. 1963, page 232.
Contributed by Phyllis Miller Fleming
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The “dean” of ministers in the Indiana Methodist Conference, Rev. Josephine B. Huffer, pastor of the Trinity Church here, hadn’t planned especially when a young girl to enter the ministry. She had planned to be a minister’s wife.
The Shelbyville Republican
Monday July 28, 1947
Page 3 column 1
REV. JOSEPHINE HUFFER
But the course of events in her life has seen her both as a minister’s wife and as a pastor for 27 years. Only one other minister in the entire state has held the pastorate of the same church longer than she and it is through her 24 consecutive years of service at the Trinity Church that she holds the Methodist deanship honor.
Rev. Huffer who was born Josephine Pavey in Switzerland County, came from a family of teachers. Four of her five brothers and sisters were teachers and Rev. Huffer recalls only one other minister in the family. Her paternal grandfather was a Baptist pastor.
Following her graduation from Moores Hill College with a Bachelor of Science degree Rev. Huffer too was a teacher for a number of years in the Switzerland county schools and in the Lawrenceburg high school. She began teaching at the early age of 17 years but even in her college years her trend toward the ministry was apparent because she recalls that she did evangelistic work during that time.
Her “plans” to become a minister’s
wife materialized with her marriage to Rev. Wilbur A. Campbell
and aside from caring for the three children born to them she was
happiest when aiding him with his work and study. Following Rev.
Campbell’s death in 1919 she turned to the ministry as the vocation
she most loved and as the best way in which to keep her family
In 1920 she was licensed as the first
“woman preacher” in Indiana and was assigned to the Cross Plains
Church. Rev. Huffer also has another “first” to her credit, she
was the first woman in Indiana to be ordained an elder and is the
only one to have taken the complete traveling-preacher four-year
course of study. She served the Cross Plains congregation for four
years and during this time a new $10,000 church was built. She is
proud of the fact that at the same time the church was dedicated,
four young men were dedicated to the ministerial service. She also
speaks with pride of Charles Hale, a former member of her
Trinity congregation who now has been a licensed pastor for the past
She came to Shelbyville in 1924 and
although she disclaims any credit, the attractive red brick place of
worship on Fair Avenue stands as a monument to her sincerity, faith
and conscientious desire to be of service to the community. The
church to which she came here was called the Main Street Church and
was a small building located on Alice street. The congregation
numbered 75 people with a Sunday school enrollment of 65. Immediately plans for increasing the membership began forming in Rev.
Huffer’s mind-as well as plans for a larger church to service a
wider scope. During her first year here the parsonage, which stands
next door to the present church was purchased and next came the
purchase of a plot of land. Rev. Huffer remembers that “no one
thought we could possibly build a large church but somehow we did.” The Trinity Church was dedicated in 1927 with fitting ceremonies and
it’s with a sense of happiness and satisfaction that amounts almost
to “gloating” that Rev. Huffer says, thoughtfully, “Now its
paid for and the church and parsonage are valued at $90.000.”
Always intensely interested in young
people her church programs are planned that “her” boys and girls
may have a part in its activities. Right now she is mulling over
having the parsonage basement made into a recreation spot for them. And it almost goes without saying that the idea will materialize
because this woman who reared three children almost single handed and
also found time to continue with her intensive study and the
ministership of a growing church seem to have a way of getting things
done for betterment of her congregation.
In 1929 she was married to
Rev. W. W. Huffer, who also took an active part in the church and aided
with her work until his death in 1939. Since that time her children
all have graduated from DePauw University and now are “gone from
home.” Mary Elizabeth received her registered nurse’s
degree from DePauw and remained to teach on the faculty until her
marriage to Robert Merkle, a former Army captain. They now
reside at Warsaw with their daughter, Emily Sue. Mariam,
now Mrs. Herbert Senger, is a teacher in the schools at
Frankfort, and James is in St. Petersburg, Florida.
Outside of her interest in people,
which amounts to a “hobby,” Rev. Huffer likes dramatics and has
written many pageants and other articles. Back in the days when she
was serving as president of the Parent-Teacher Association at the old
Kirby school building and heading the former Community Chest, she had
ideas that “when the children are a little older I may do something
with dramatics.” But now she finds that her years here have
brought such a wide acquaintance that calls for service from outside
her own church are so numerous that time still is at a premium. “Sometimes yet I may write,” she says, “but right now I’m too
busy - and being busy is a blessing, particularly when you are doing
something in answer to a call for help.”
Contributed by Barb Huff
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